Friday, January 28, 2011

trading beauty for ashes

"...and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor."
-Isaiah 61:3

Driving from the Dominican to Haiti, the terrain drastically changes. From lush rice fields and green mountain scapes to dirt roads and thorny bushes. In fact, the main road leading into the border-town of Dajabon looks much like what I imagine the desolate journey to hell would be. You pass by miles and miles of plant-life that has no green leaves or flowering buds but rather scratchy branches and prickles. You pass by dead animals and scavenger birds and what would appear to be unmarked graves only detectable by the handmade crosses placed as remembrance. There is one feeling that comes over me as I have driven that road many times.


left: typical housing right: drying the day's catch

As we entered the village of Phaeton, Haiti, we were not greeted by running children, jumping into our arms or familiar faces reaching out to shake our hands. We were just being watched. Very intensely. It made me uncomfortable knowing I couldn't offer a kind hello or even ask the children their ages to break the ice. Five years of learning Spanish was worthless here. I was kicking myself wishing I had learned some Creole.


We were then welcomed by Pastor Lucner and his wife, Marie. Familiar Faces. Loving hearts. Gracious hosts. "If I could just lock myself in their yard," I thought, "I'll make it through the next five days." I know. Great thing for a "seasoned" missionary to say. But you see, I like my comfortable little world where things hurt just a little. I don't really want to be changed. I don't want the floodgates of pain to come crashing down when I realize just how hopeless things can really get.

fishermen making their own nets

We settled in and decided to go for a walk. We were followed by a trail of curious kids. They kept their distance at first but it appeared that every step we took into their world, they took one more step into ours. I began asking Wilby (one of our staff's husband who is Haitian) how to say the "token" phrases in Creole and of course the most important one, the one I had to learn the second I stepped on the island five years ago..."Can I take your picture?" One of the fishermen overheard my inquiries and said something to Wilby. I asked Wilby if it would be alright if I took the fisherman's picture. The man replied, "Only if she asks me in Creole." So there I was, in the same place as I was the first time I had to use my Spanish words, scared to death I'd screw it up, except this time in Creole. I spit it out, the man smiled, I took his picture. My hopelessness began to lift a little.


The children stole my heart. I was cautious though. I was on a mission to just work hard and go home. If I made any connections, I knew it would change me. And like I said, I wasn't sure I wanted to be changed. But there was something so incredible about them. So tentative at first. We actually made the smaller ones cry at the very sight of us. But little by little I could feel the exchange between us and them. Our hearts beat and said, "We're here to love you," their hearts beat and said, "I've heard that before."



Wilby explained to us that a lot of people have come to Haiti, taking pictures of the starving children and harsh living conditions with the promises that they will use the photos to bring them help. Only to never return. We had a lot of barriers to overcome. The mistakes of others before us. Just hoping we can restore trust between the Haitian people and ourselves.


left: watering hole right: what most of the homes are made of

fish drying out in the sun

left: ruins left from the rope-making factory right: flower among thorns

This village is really indescribable. Wood and mud shacks banked up against vast oceans and mountain ranges. You can't explain it in words. It just doesn't do it justice.

sun rising over the ocean, about 6:05 am

fishermen out at dawn

sunrise, 6:15 am

We took a trip to the Citadel Laferrière. It's a stone building together with Fort Jacques Alexandre that was built as a part of a fortification during the slave uprising in Haiti. The fortress was built by the leader of the Haitian uprising, Mr. Henri Christophe (Henry I.) between 1805-1820. More than 20,000 Haitians and slaves worked on the fortification system. There is even legend that when they ran out of water while mixing the mortar, Christophe had slaves killed and their blood drained and used to continue their work. Just to give you a little insight of the treatment of the Haitian people for centuries.

citadel, looking up from the path...

left: orange and green mold growing on the walls right: corridor leading to the Christophe's wife's bedroom

the armory...four different sized cannon balls


By the end of our trip in Phaeton, I could feel the tugging at my heart that you only feel when you're about to lose it. When you're about to give a piece of it away to someone, a people, a village. Luckily, when I lost it, I wasn't alone. Thank goodness my friend, Jen, was there when the blubbering began. When I went through all five stages of grief in a matter of minutes. Just not understanding why people are so oppressed. Why children go hungry and a whole village is forgotten by the world. Why Satan and his dominions have such power over a country. But as quickly as it came, it left just the same. My tears were gone and peace overcame me. God reminded me that they are his people too. The forgotten ones. Only not forgotten by him.



I love you, people of Phaeton. I really, really do. I'm sorry I didn't love you as well as I could have. I'm sorry I held so much back for the little time I was there. But I promise. I'm not going to be one of those people that takes pictures of your hungry kids and your harsh living conditions and then forgets about you. I will use them to remind others that there is a bigger world beyond our own. A world that is hurting. A world that is living without. And I will come again. More people will be walking your dirt roads. More people will be loving you. Jesus will bring hope and restoration to your people....he will trade his beauty for your ashes.

me and willy

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Video Camera

Those of you who read our blog and follow our journey know I'm the Coordinator of Photography for G.O. Ministries, Inc.. I have the unique opportunity to capture life and ministry in the Dominican Republic and Haiti through the perspective of the lens. Because being a missionary is a "job" in which we rely solely on the support of others, all of the equipment I use needs to be donated or have the funds donated in order to purchase.

Recently, a former college professor of mine, donated the money so I could buy a new Nikon D90 for my work here. Because of his generosity, the work that I am so privileged to be able to do has improved greatly.

But besides being a photographer, I have also become sort of a videographer as well. Although I have no training and really no idea what I am doing, it is something that God has allowed me to use alongside of the photography I love. For the last three years, I have been using a video camera that was donated to the ministry through another one of our missionaries. It has been an incredible asset to my work. But like all things electronic, its life has come to an end. Hence the purpose of this post.

Mike and I have purchased the video camera in the photo above. It is not necessarily in our budget to do so, but we believe that it was a necessary purchase to do what I do...which is raise awareness and be an advocate for the Dominican and Haitian people through the use of media. On faith we purchased this video camera for our organization and on faith I make this post that there is someone who has been looking for an avenue to be a financial help and may have found it today.

The cost of the video camera was $400.00. If you feel so moved to donate $5, $10, $100 towards it, I send you a million thanks. Absolutely every bit helps. But I don't want to limit God. I know he wants to grow my faith and the faith of his followers. I know he can do immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine. My ministry is an expensive ministry in the sense that the equipment I use is not a $15.00 shovel or $50.00 wheelbarrow to build a church but sometimes thousands of dollars to show the world the amazing work God is doing here.

If you feel so moved to donate toward this purchase and any future purchases for my ministry of media, please go here to find out how you can partner with us. (make sure you indicate you want your donation to go to Braisteds Media Equipment)

Below is an example of one of the videos I have done.